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Porsche announces Panamera Woodie special edition

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Article by Bob Gutjahr

In what may be one of its most brilliant marketing moves in the last decade, Porsche AG and Porsche Cars North America (PCNA) today announced production of a limited-edition Panamera Woodie wagon based on the design of its new Panamera Sport Turismo that premiered at the Geneva International Motor Show in March. The Woodie is a radical departure from anything Porsche has done before and pays tribute to America’s love affair with the wood-paneled estate and station wagons built in the '30s, '40s and '50s. Only 542 examples of this wagon will be built, guaranteeing them instant collector status.

Andre Oosthuizen, PCNA vice president for marketing, proudly proclaimed the new Woodie will be one of the few Porsches ever built solely for the U.S. and Canada, citing the Porsche Club of America’s 60th Anniversary 911 GTS Club Coupe as the latest example of this special affinity with one of Porsche’s most important markets. Porsche is betting the buzz generated by the Woodie’s reveal will produce a strong bow wave of sales for its new wagon, derived from the Sport Turismo design concept shown the Paris Motor Show in 2012 and scheduled to arrive on these shores late this year. Based on projected sales figures, Porsche clearly sees this car as the ultimate shooting brake for Europe and the best-performing luxury sport wagon in America. The Woodie is the exclamation point to Porsche’s wagon sales campaign, a futuristic yet retro statement about American dreams and lifestyles: a Beach Boys’ toy with “Star Wars” technology. 

The vehicle is the brainchild of Porsche’s marketing and Exclusive departments. Stefan Utsch, Porsche's head of sales and marketing for the Panamera, disclosed he has been fascinated with the traditional American station wagon ever since viewing a German subtitled version of “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Herr Utsch wanted to dub the Woodie the “Familie von Trooksta,” but the factory’s leadership quickly nixed the idea. Porsche Exclusive’s Boris Apenbrink, who in his role as Director of Special Vehicles led the Club Coupe and Sports Classic projects for Porsche, admitted in a recent interview that he has wanted to make the quintessential sporting statement of this American icon ever since the Sport Turismo debuted. “Woodies are so cool,” he said, “and even better, they’re a green alternative.”

But if you’re thinking Porsche’s Woodie will be nothing more than a German version of a linoleum-paneled Dodge Magnum, think again. Each of these 542 cars — commemorating Porsche’s Typ 542 Design for Studebaker in the 1950s — will come with all the bells and whistles expected of Volkswagen’s most successful luxury brand. This Weissach-engineered Woodie is one serious hauler, powered by the 440-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 currently found in the Cayenne GTS and complemented by a brand new gear-selector mechanism that totally eliminates the Panamera’ s massive command center console area. Known as the “Drei an der Baum Kupplung” (DBK, which translates to “three on the tree transmission”), this is the first Porsche gear selector to move from the floor to the steering column — and the transmission’s new microprocessors are rumored to be so smooth and so fast that Porsche believes Americans will never want to order another manual transmission again. 

As with most of Porsche’s limited editions, the Woodie represents the finest in German craftsmanship. The Stuttgart firm has contracted with Black Forest Erzgebirge cuckoo clock makers to design and make the wood paneling for each of the 542 cars scheduled to roll down the production line in Leipzig next year. Interiors will be full retro, surrounded by wood inlays and featuring bolstered bench seats front and rear that recall the 356 series benches from the 1950s. The cars will be replete with a variety of special features, including Porsche Classic solid titanium wheels covered by dog-dish hubcaps inlaid with gold, a rear hatch that converts into a swinging tailgate or fold-down picnic table, and suicide doors to allow easy access to a purposeful interior cabin that is not unlike your favorite '70s custom van. The 542, or “Stude” as it’s called in Weissach, will have a record 10 cup holders, six USB ports, and four 110-volt outlets to keep their carefree American owners fully entertained at the beach or on the slopes.

Porsche Exclusive prides itself on its incredible array of options in personalizing cars for its customers, but in the case of the Panamera Woodie, it is only offering two trim levels: the “Topanga,” built specifically for the Southern California surfing set, and the “Stowe Special,” a throwback to the wood-paneled haulers that for decades transported tourists in luxury to New England ski resorts. An obvious retro tribute to Oldsmobile’s Vista Cruiser roof from the 1960s — what Porsche is calling the Panoramic Peekaboo Roof (PPR) — consists of a raised, glass-paneled roof that gently arches up from the B pillar. Opting for the PPR on either car adds $75,000 to the MSRP. This may be the only Porsche option that will tempt owners to spend more time in the back seat than the front! Second-row passengers will be treated to roof-mounted sky-lighting for night drives in the mountains and special sun visors intended to block all those UV rays pouring in through the tinted-glass panels at the beach.

Porsche boasts it has both coasts covered with its Woodie. The Topanga features a special roof rack for surfboards and interior appointments that include sun lotion dispensers and an on-board weather station that provides tidal data for every surfing beach around the world. A Porsche Design surfboard comes standard with every Topanga, whose color palette includes the very new and very bright Zuma Orange and an old Porsche standby, Talbot Yellow. According to Porsche AG’s press release, it’s the ultimate fantasy machine for Porsche AG Chairman Oliver Blume, PCNA CEO Klaus Zellmer, as well as Wolfgang and Hans Peter Porsche — all of whom are closet fans of Jan and Dean (“Surf City,” “Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” et al) and have secretly wanted a German version of a Woodie ever since the debut of the Panamera eight years ago. 

The Stowe Special’s roof rack will accommodate eight sets of skis, four snowboards, or luggage for four people. Its spacious way-back has been ergonomically designed to provide living space for two hounds during hunting season or one St Bernard for ski trips. The Stowe comes in more sedate colors than its Topanga counterpart: Turkish Red, a lovely 356 color from the ’50s, and Hunter Green, the Porsche family’s favorite.

The excitement generated by Porsche’s Panamera Woodie announcement has been overwhelming, despite the car’s estimated $200,000 MSRP. Although the Woodie will not hit the streets until early 2018, PCNA reports it has taken over 500 advance orders and has had to establish a lottery system for selecting the remaining prospective owners. If you wish to sign up, it is highly recommended you call a special hotline for this exciting new car: 1-800-APR-FOOL.

Image by LARSON

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